Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Reflections

Many would say that hindsight is 20/20, but for some of the women who offer their reflections on coeducation at Franklin & Marshall the numbers are a bit higher. Jessica May ‘70 observes that in only five to seven years after the first women were admitted to the College the composition of men and women "was almost 50/50," and she adds, "most of the women thought of it as a coed institution, not as a formerly male institution." Elizabeth Mackey '75 supplements this recognition by commenting on how this equitable ratio positively affected the women in these later classes: "...it registered a level of normalcy for the women, where things we dealt with and were frustrated by and found uncomfortable, they didn't have to deal with... they felt much more comfortable." Not satisfied with just 40 years, Mackey goes on to imagine what the relationship between men and women will be like at Franklin & Marshall in 10 more years, saying, "...one of the great things that we'll see is a complete leveling of the playing field, that it's expected that women will excel and succeed at the same rates and levels that men do. There won't be a distinction."

This is not to say that all gender concerns at Franklin & Marshall have been resolved. The first female vice president of the College, Alice Drum, admits that there are many more female role models on today's campus than that of the past, but claims that we still don't truly understand gender and how it is at the bottom of so many other issues in contemporary society. "If I were the queen of the universe of Franklin & Marshall College," Drum pretends, she would decree that everyone -- men and women -- would have to take a gender studies course. "We must understand gender in ways we don't now." Maura Condon Umble ‘83, director of the Women's Center for 5 years, agrees with this notion of continuation: "I hope that even though we celebrate 40 years of coeducation at Franklin & Marshall, I hope that we always still recognize the need for discussion on these issues." But she quickly pays homage to the women on the early end of coeducation, the source of this ongoing discourse, reminding us to "thank them for allowing us to stand on their shoulders."

So keeping in mind all of the intricacies, difficulties and rewards of coeducation at Franklin & Marshall, how would alumnae like to see these 40 years celebrated? "If I had all the money in the world?" Nicole Teillon-Riegel '90 asks. "I would pay to get every single female back to this campus to try to figure out what they got out of it." Randy Laxer ‘79 is intrigued by the other side of the coin: "I would like to hear more about how the male population felt [about what] was going on here." Mixing both views with a healthy dose of pragmatism, Sherri Heller '76, who often offers resume-writing workshops on campus, envisions more interaction between men and women. "I think there should be more conversations on campus about how to have it all, and I think this should be men and women together." She raises such pivotal life decision as when to have a baby, which partner gets career preference, etc. The difference now, she says, is that many of these questions are coming from men, as well. And by this, she is heartened.

Mackey spins the question, asking of current Franklin & Marshall women: "What is it that you would look to us for, what do you need from us?" One answer comes from Sue Rengler '77, and it's not just a plaque or sculpture, but a "pay back or passing along." She would like to make a commitment to the next generation, like hiring or mentoring a woman as she graduates and heads out into the world. In this way, she foresees "a living breathing activity." "It's not just a bunch of old broads stuck in a room with what they did -- it's old broads who can help the next generation, with great pleasure I might add." In a more philosophical vein, Rengler wants to simply honor accomplishments and in turn commemorate the legacy of the College. This is the school's legacy; it is all the people who go out and make the world a better place in some way." It is perhaps Jennifer Pugh '74, though, who offers the most Zen answer: "In a way, just being who they are celebrates it." Do current women raise being female on this campus as an issue? she challenges. "See, that's the success."

  • Sherri Heller
  • "I wouldn't say the legacy of women at Franklin & Marshall, but the legacy of coeducation at Franklin & Marshall."
    — Sherri Heller '76

  • Nicole Teillon-Riegl
  • "If I had all the money in he world? I would pay to get every single female back to this campus to try to figure out what they got out of it."
    — Nicole Teillon-Riegl '90

  • Randy Laxer
  • "I would like to hear more about how the male population felt [about what] was going on here."
    — Randy Laxer '79